How do you keep unusually focused and productive?
November 18, 2011 6:15 AM   Subscribe

Motivation Filter: How to be obsessed (in a healthy way) with the work that you do and love.

I've heard that the sculptor Bernini did not drink alcohol like most of his contemporaries because he thought it would make him less productive. He also mainly ate fruit and vegetables for the same reason-- I haven't taken the time to double check this, so do forgive me if I'm mistaken.

Yesterday I listened to The Moth Podcast and heard a story by a writer who had cut herself off from her friends and family for a certain period of time in order to work on her book.

I'm curious about other stories like these. Your personal ones, and ones you've heard.

What sacrifices do you make, or have you made, so that you can attend to your passion or work, or both if they are the same? What out-of-the-ordinary things do you do in order to achieve your goals? How do you keep your standards high when you are around wonderful, but less driven individuals? Who and what inspires you to push yourself?

posted by seriousmoonlight to Work & Money (5 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
For me, it's almost always a matter of time. I love to do theater, but I don't make a living at it, so in addition to my 50+ hour work week, I have to carve out the time to work on a show. The past three weeks (opening night tonight...wooo!) I haven't been out with friends, haven't cooked anything in my kitchen beyond toast, haven't done a full week's worth of laundry or cleaned my house in any significant way, and have averaged about 4 hours of sleep per night.

However, I also attended family birthday parties, helped my brother get some work done, stayed up late to listen to a friend who is going through a bad break-up and logged into my work e-mail in the wee hours of the morning. Once the things I'm passionate about start negatively affecting the people and things that should be important to me, I know I need to take a step back.

This isn't sustainable, but it's doable in isolated chunks of my life. I'm happy this show turned out well, and I'll be thrilled to sleep in tomorrow morning. I think when you have a passion, you're willing first and foremost to sacrifice something of yourself, rather than make "sacrifices" that are less your own than other peoples'.
posted by xingcat at 6:29 AM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you are passionate about something your priorities get rearranged. I did my MA at night while working full time and spent all my free time studying and writing essays. My social life disappeared but at the time I didn't care because I was obsessed with my program. I think your priorities just adjust with the cirumstances but you can't force it- or it's very difficult and you really start to resent it- if you are not passionate about it in the first place.
posted by bquarters at 7:28 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

i make art. i do not text. if you text me, i will call you back...that way i can stick the phone under my ear and keep working with my hands.
posted by sexyrobot at 11:48 AM on November 18, 2011

ones you've heard

Just wanted to check you are already aware of the Daily Routines blog. Lots of good stuff there.
posted by oliverburkeman at 11:57 AM on November 18, 2011

How do you keep your standards high when you are around wonderful, but less driven individuals?

Actually, for me achieving maximum productivity means cutting all non-excellent people out of my life. People who, for whatever reason, are still great people, but aren't passionate and driven, have a way of sabotaging me. Maybe they tease me about being busy all the time. Maybe when they see what I've been working on they say something like, "Wow, you must be bored, huh?" or they find ways to imply that they think my passion is not important. Maybe, when they catch me working, they try to lure me away to hang out with them. I don't think they do it on purpose--in fact, I think often they're trying to express care and concern--but it really gets to me, and I have to avoid them, and only see them under very specific conditions.

Surrounding myself only with people whose work habits I admire, and who respect my work habits, is really really important for me. Most of my social time involves getting together with fellow artists to work on projects side-by-side. It's a lot easier to get things done in an environment where working all the time doesn't actually seem exceptional, and I don't need to justify it to anybody.
posted by milk white peacock at 12:24 PM on November 18, 2011 [6 favorites]

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